DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
LLANO — There are 38 trophies lining the Llano High School band hall, each acknowledging the band’s continuous level of excellence over the past four decades. The band earned the unbroken string of trophies by garnering a “first division” rating the past 38 years in University Interscholastic League marching contests.
“They see those trophies every time they walk in here,” band director Scott Simmons said. “They know the standards for this band are high. They have a legacy they have to live up to. They understand that, and the kids set high expectations for themselves.”
The Yellow Jackets band began rehearsing in late July with its first main performance Aug. 28 when the football team opens the season at Wall. Simmons, who took over the band this summer, said everything is coming together.
This year’s show is called “The Four Elements.” Eric Rath, a composer from Amarillo, created the piece.
Simmons intentionally went with a selection that’s a “little” easier than last year’s music mainly because he didn’t know much about the band members’ abilities. But, he pointed out, this selection is still challenging and will provide for a great marching show.
Building a show for halftimes and competitions takes a lot of work and repetition. When the freshmen first gathered in late July, the band leaders — directors and students — began breaking down the marching fundamentals for the newest members. Simmons pointed out that marching isn’t the same as walking.
“We break it down to very basic things starting with posture,” he said. “And then there’s the preparatory march where you bring your knee up and put your heel out. We take it in very small steps, sometimes in half steps.”
And once you learn to march forward, he said, it’s an entirely different process to learn how to do it backward.
“Then, how do you slide step?” Simmons said.
He described it as when the band line is moving across the field from left to right, or slightly away at an angle, but the individual members’ bodies and instruments are forward, facing the crowd.
“Marching is tough. It’s not something we do naturally,” he said.
So by Aug. 3, when the entire band returned for practice, it was out on the parking lot starting at 8:30 a.m. for marching drills until lunch. After lunch, it was into the band hall for more music practice. Like marching, Simmons and the band leaders break down the music almost note by note for rehearsals before putting it all together.
“The band has done great with the transition (in band directors),” Simmons said.
He pointed out that band is more than learning and performing music; it’s about learning how to deal with changes, problems and other challenges.
“And they learn to work cooperatively with others — those they like and don’t like — which is something they’ll benefit from outside of the band hall,” he said. “There are things like being respectful, working hard and problem solving — these are skills that will benefit them for life.”
And along the way, the Llano High School band plans to add a 39th UIL trophy to its collection.